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December 2003



Take a look at the video of "Jugemu jugemu"!
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A chant that begins "Jugemu jugemu" has become so popular across Japan that nearly every child is familiar with it. The chant is so long that it takes about 15 seconds to say the entire thing even for someone who is speaking quickly. But if you ask kids if they know what it means, the answer will probably be "No." If you ask them why they like it, though, they'll say things like, "The rhythm is good," "It's fun because it's almost like singing a song," or "I want to learn how to say the whole thing."

What started this boom was a TV program on the NHK Educational channel called Nihongo de asobo (Let's have fun with Japanese) that began in April and is aimed at young children. The goal of the program is to get children to rediscover and enjoy the rich world of Japanese. Interesting words and phrases that people would want to read out loud are taken from things like Japanese classical performing arts, poems, novels, and historical phrases and introduced to kids through drama, cartoon, and song.

Japan has a traditional form of comic storytelling called rakugo, in which one performer sits onstage and portrays many different people. The "jugemu" chant comes from an old rakugo story. A father who wants his newly born child to be healthy and have a long life goes to the local temple and asks the head priest what he should name his boy. The priest gives the man a long list of names, and the man ends up combining them all into one long name, which is what the chant is.

Ishibashi Tomoaki, who is 11 years old, says, "I like the parts that repeat, like 'paipo paipo' and 'ponpo kopi no ponpo kona.'" When he is at home, Tomoaki often competes with his 6-year-old brother, Hideaki, over who is better at reciting the "jumegu" chant. Hideaki, who is proud of his ability, says, "I learned to say the whole thing faster than my brother," and he often corrects his brother, pointing out when Tomoaki gets a part of it wrong. Their mother Kumiko, however, explains, "It's only to be expected that Hideaki remembered it first, because he was the first to see it on TV and start trying to learn it."

So are you interested in trying the chant for yourself? Even if you don't know what it means, that doesn't matter; Japanese kids don't know either. So why don't you try and see if you can read the whole thing from beginning to end without making any slips?

Jugemu jugemu, goko no surikire, kaijari suigyo no suigyomatsu, unraimatsu, furaimatsu, ku neru tokoro ni sumu tokoro, yabura koji no bura koji, paipo paipo, paipo no shuringan, shuringan no gurindai, gurindai no ponpokopi no ponpokona no, chokyumei no chosuke.

NOTICE: Since October 9, 2003, Japanese names in Kids Web Japan have been written in their original order: surname first.